Yusuf remembers learning about robotics and computer science in middle school. “It clicked with me,” he says. “I was good at it, and I enjoyed it.”
During 10th grade at Sammamish High School, Yusuf’s AP chemistry teacher urged him to apply to the two-week Pathways Research Explorers Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The program provides high school students from underrepresented communities an immersive, hands-on introduction to cancer biology, lab activities, and research careers.
“I was smiling the whole time. I was having fun,” Yusuf says. “I met a computational biologist while they were explaining what they did. I thought, that’s what I want to do.”
The Pathways Research Explorers Program is a launchpad for many students who go on to participate in Fred Hutch’s more intensive programs as they progress through their academic experiences. Students conduct scientific experiments related to cancer and talk to scientists in various positions, including people from groups systematically marginalized and excluded from research.
After learning about computational biology, Yusuf completed a yearlong internship with Fred Hutch in 11th grade. Through regular meetings with his mentor, a computational biologist, Yusuf learned about both coding and biology, and used machine learning to analyze COVID-19 data.
“It was a new experience that I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else,” Yusuf says.
“You belong in science”
Through science education outreach, Fred Hutch – a member of the Washington Roundtable, of which Partnership for Learning is the education foundation – actively works to recruit, support, and retain high school and undergraduate students from communities underrepresented in scientific research. Students gain hands-on STEM experience while receiving career guidance and mentorship. Program participants become cancer researchers, computer engineers, and more. The programs also serve as a way for Fred Hutch to build a diverse pool of scientific researchers and engage communities across the state.